Hey there, thanks for joining me today 🙂 I’ve been taking a look at essential oil grades and how to decide who to buy from, I was surprised to learn that there’s actually no official grading system. It turns out it’s just a term invented by Multi-Level Marketing companies. Probably because there’s no money in it, I mean you can’t patent a plant, but there’s certainly money to be made from good marketing.
In the absence of an official essential oil grades system, it makes sense that these companies would look for a way to promote their oils above the rest. My research however has found that not all essential oils are as pure as you would think, or as potent in their beneficial properties. A poor quality oil may smell good but the aroma will diminish quicker and the benefits will be less obvious. The problem is that anyone can use these terms so you will want to look further into why they are making these claims before relying on them.
If they regularly supply and are trusted by trained Aromatherapists, then the term Aromatherapy or Therapeutic grade has some meaning. Usually only pure unadulterated oils that possess the highest ratio of natural constituents are used by trained therapists for use in Aromatherapy.
We could be here all day discussing the quality of essential oils, after all they are the natural extracts of aromatic plants, trees, fruits and flowers, so the quality is influenced by the way they are grown. Factors like soil type, altitude, country of origin, the amount of sunshine and rainfall all come into play. Harvesting at peak times, storage of crops and the extraction process must also be considered when determining the quality of an oil. We don’t have all day of course so I’ve put together some info that will hopefully point you in the right direction when choosing your supplier.
What’s a GC Report?- Gas Chromatography
You’ll see batch specific GC reports referred to a lot by any essential oil supplier worth their salt. This is the main method used for testing the precise chemical makeup of an oil. Gas Chromatography shows the order in which the different constituents of an oil vaporise, with the quantity of each constituent expressed as a percentage. Some oils have over 400 constituents and many oils have the same constituents but in different proportions. These differences will determine it’s beneficial properties, I’ll use Lavender as an example;
Lavandula latifolia, commonly Spike Lavender essential oil, has a much higher level of camphor giving it expectorant properties and often used to ease the aches and pains of a cold.
.Lavandula angustifolia, commonly Lavender essential oil, contains almost no camphor and has a sweet floral aroma that can calm and sooth.
Click on each of the pictures below to see an example of a GC report and the different percentages of Camphor in each Lavender oil.
If the oils are being used for therapeutic purposes these test are a must. because oils grown in different countries and conditions can have different compositions, so their uses and safety concerns will be different, also if it has been altered in any way chemicals that shouldn’t be there will show up and the batch will be rejected by any reputable company.
Having said that, If you or I requested a GC report for a batch of oils, most of us wouldn’t know what we were looking for, so for these tests to be of any use in determining quality and purity there needs to be someone involved with the sourcing, that is trained in the chemistry of essential oils and aromatherapy.
The Aromatherapy Trade Council
The Aromatherapy Trade Council advise that when buying your oils to be assured of quality you can choose someone from their member list, just click the screenshot image below to see their list.
Must adhere to comprehensive standards set and certified by The Soil Association in the Uk or the USDA in America
Sustainable cultivation derived from a herb, shrub or tree that is not harvested so aggressively that the species becomes depleted.
Derived from plants that are not cultivated but gathered from their natural wild habitat, growing in conditions favourable to the health of the plant.
Are Organic Oils Superior?
In recent years organic has become very popular for obvious reasons and if you’d prefer organic, lots of reputable companies now have organic ranges or indeed are solely organic. I’m not qualified to say whether organic oils are superior to non-organic oils or not, I can only tell you that from my research, the reviews for the organic oils seem to give that impression.
On the other side of the coin, the non-organic sellers say if pesticides were left in the oils, it would be showing up in the composition reports, and rejected, so you don’t have to buy organic to be assured of quality, some companies will also only use farmers that ethically harvest their crops.
There’s also Wild Crafted essential oils to consider, although not certified organic, they will not have been contaminated by pesticides and fertilisers while growing in their natural habitat.
So it really comes down to personal choice, but be prepared to pay more for organic oils due to the cost of growing and maintaining crops in compliance with organic farming principles.
If you’re buying your oils from a company that claims their essential oils are organic they should be certified by the Soil Association in the UK or the USDA in the US, comprehensive standards have to be maintained in order to be certified organic, and that can mean a large differance between a product that is merely described as ‘organic’ on the label.
You can also perform your own search of a company to check their license, on either the UK Soil Association website or the USDA Website if buying from the US.
Want to Learn More About Aromatherapy and Essential Oils?
Here are some of my favourite resources for learning more about how to safely and effectively use essential oils in skincare, aromatherapy, and cleaning products.
Quinessence Aromatherapy Lifestyle – A great blog to read about essential oils and all things aromatherapy.
Aromaweb – one of, if not the best source for all things aromatherapy on the internet.
ATC – (Aromatherapy Trade Council) the trade association for the specialist aromatherapy essential oil trade, represents manufacturers and suppliers of aromatherapy products as well as the interest of consumers in the United Kingdom.
Aromahead Blog – Some great Aromatherapy and essential oil reading from Andrea Butje who is an an internationally recognized Aromatherapist.
I hope you’re a little less confused about essential oils now than you were when you arrived 🙂 Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or just want to have a say.